Whirlwind Weekend for Jason Leffler and the ...
Whirlwind Weekend for Jason Leffler and the #32 ABF Chevrolet at the Great American Speedway
When the Braun Racing team unloaded the No. 32 ABF U-Pack Chevrolet on Thursday, they knew the car would be a top competitor in Saturday's O'Reilly 300. "This is Jason's favorite car, which is funny because chassis No. 15 was originally set to be a back-up car. We tested this car down in Homestead-Miami last year and Jason loved it," stated crew chief Todd Lohse.
On-track activities on Thursday included both practice sessions and qualifying, allowing the teams to have a full day off on Friday. The No. 32 was fast early in the first practice and with minor adjustments placed 10th on the board with a time of 29.536, 182.828 mph. The second practice, Leffler proved he had a strong car posting the fastest time as a Busch series regular with 29.479, 183.181 mph, fourth on the board. As qualifying neared and the sun continued to beat down on the track, Jason took to the track second and posted a lap time of 29.142,185.300 mph. Placing the #32 ABF U-Pack Chevy 27th in the field.
"Drawing the second qualifying spot did not work out in our favor. Track conditions changed quiet a bit from the practice sessions. If we had gone out a little bit later, I know we would have ended up in the top 15, easily," stated Leffler.
After a full day off on Friday, the Braun Racing team returned to the track on Saturday for the O'Reilly 300. At the drop of the green flag, Leffler reported in "free off, turning good in the center." Despite the slight handling condition, the #32 ABF U-Pack Chevy posted the fastest lap of the field on lap 41 and managed to gain 10 spots, moving up to the 17th position.
As the field began cycling through pit stops, Leffler brought the No. 32 Chevy down pit road on lap 61 for a round of wedge to the left rear, four fresh tires and fuel to help tighten the car up. With the minor adjustments made, Leffler returned to the track in the 13th position.
With the No. 32 solidly sitting in the 12th position on lap 112, Jason came over the radio and reported "tire going down." Under green flag conditions, Leffler had to bring the car down pit road for four tires and fuel. The green flag stop placed Jason one lap down in the 27th position.
"My heart went into my throat when I had to radio in the tire going down, I knew we had a strong car. There was no choice but to bring the No. 32 ABF Chevy down pit road for new tires, it was either wreck a few more laps into it or hope the car was strong enough to get us back on the lead lap," stated Leffler.
Back out on the track, Leffler reported in "too free and possible left front fender rub, tire may be going down again" on lap 134. As a precaution, Todd Lohse made the call to bring the No. 32 down pit road again for fender repair, four fresh tires, fuel, a wedge and an air pressure adjustment.
As the caution flag flew on lap 163, Jason gained his lap back and received the "Lucky Dog" award. Firmly believing the bad streak of luck had ended, Jason was confident the team could still salvage a top 10 finish until three laps later when NASCAR reported in "No side window on the No. 32" causing Leffler to be blacked flagged. Just as Jason was about to bring the ABF Chevy down pit road, the caution flag flew once again saving the team from going a lap down a second time.
As the race day came to a close, Jason managed to keep the car on the lead lap and cross the finish line in 17th position.
"What a day, I definitely kept this crew on their toes. The car was strong but all these issues kept popping up. We started out very optimistic and then as the day progressed we dealt with everything from a handling issue to a window falling out. All things considered the crew worked hard and we managed to keep the No. 32 on the lead lap at the end of the day," explained Leffler.
Jason Leffler and the #32 Braun Racing team head to the "Music City" this weekend to run in the Pepsi 300 at Nashville Superspeedway. The race will air live on F/X this Saturday, April 15 at 3:30 p.m. ET.